When the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) tips off its 2024 regular season on May 14, a talented 12 teams will prepare to play 40 games each as they strive to make it all the way to the WNBA finals. Dedicated fans might be curious about the basketball players going head to head each week, including who holds the title of highest paid WNBA player.
Here, we'll break down the biggest paychecks for the 2024 season and which WNBA players can expect those dollars. We'll also explain how WNBA compensation works and examine the salary gap between the WNBA and the NBA.
How Do WNBA Salaries Work?
When discussing WNBA compensation, it’s important to understand a few fundamentals. The first one is the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which is a contract between the WNBA and the WNBA Players Association detailing the rules around how the league pays its athletes.
The second is the maximum base salary, also called the “supermax,” and it functions a bit like a salary cap. Just as the CBA outlines two levels of minimum base salaries, it also describes two levels of maximum base salaries, with the supermax being an ultimate hard cap on a player’s base salary for a season.
For 2024, the supermax is $241,984. Only certain players qualify for supermax salaries, with requirements revolving around the number of years they’ve played in the league, among other things.
On top of their base pay, players might earn bonuses or other types of compensation throughout the season. Some might sign endorsement deals with major brands, too. While those funds are separate from a player's base pay, they still contribute to the athlete's overall annual earnings.
7 Highest Salaries in the WNBA
$241,984: Arike Ogunbowale, Kahleah Copper and Jewell Loyd
For the upcoming season, there's a three-way tie for the WNBA's highest paid player. Arike Ogunbowale, Kahleah Copper and Jewell Loyd can all expect bases of $241,984 — the highest maximum base allowable in the league for 2024.
The Dallas Wings drafted Ogunbowale, a guard, fifth overall in 2019. Originally from Wisconsin, she has ranked among the league's top five scorers four times.
Kahleah Copper is a guard-forward for the Chicago Sky and has played in the league since 2016. In 2021, she helped guide her team toward winning its first championship ever.
Guard Jewell Loyd was the first overall pick in the 2015 draft by the Seattle Storm. She and her superstar teammate Breanna Stewart were key parts of the Storm's 2018 championship-winning team.
$234,936: Diana Taurasi
Diana Taurasi's base for 2024 is $234,936, making her the fourth-highest-paid player in the WNBA, although she has the second-highest salary after the three-way tie of Arike Ogunbowale, Kahleah Copper and Jewell Loyd.
A native Californian, Taurasi has spent her entire career with the Phoenix Mercury since the team drafted her as its first overall pick in 2004. A guard, she has led the Phoenix Mercury to multiple championships and is the all-time leading scorer in the league's history.
She has also earned multiple Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards and played for numerous all-star teams throughout her career, consistently making her one of the highest-paid players in the league.
$234,350: Natasha Howard
With a salary of $234,350, Natasha Howard is currently a power forward for the Dallas Wings. She has played for the league since 2014 — first for the Indiana Fever, then the Minnesota Lynx, followed by the Seattle Storm and the New York Liberty.
She is known for her shot-blocking ability, rebounding and the capability to guard multiple positions on the court.
$218,000: Alyssa Thomas
The fourth-highest paid player, Alyssa Thomas will pull in a base of $218,000 in 2024. She has played for the Connecticut Sun since they drafted her into the league in 2014. Able to play both forward and guard positions, Thomas is known for her versatility.
In early 2021, she suffered a torn Achilles tendon but returned to the court just nine months later, showing her determination to stay in the game. She has been an all-star multiple times and received All-WNBA Team honors.
$212,000: Kelsey Mitchell
A guard for the Indiana Fever, Kelsey Mitchell's salary is $212,000. Originally from Ohio, she played basketball for Ohio State University before the Fever drafted her as the second overall pick in the first round in 2018.
A skilled three-point shooter, her ability to sink long shots has made her a serious scoring threat. Like many of the other players on this list, she advocates for social justice issues, such as racial equality, in her time off the court.
$218,219: Napheesa Collier
Another one of the league's top earners, Napheesa Collier has a base of $208,219. The Minnesota Lynx drafted her as the sixth overall pick in the first round of the 2019 draft. Still with the Lynx, she can play both as a forward and as a guard and is known for being an exceptionally well-rounded player. In her debut season, the league named her Rookie of the Year.
$208,000: Marina Mabrey and Kayla McBride
Tying for seventh place for the WNBA's top salaries, Marina Mabrey and Kayla McBride can each claim $208,000 in 2024.
Currently a guard for the Chicago Sky, Mabrey played college basketball at the University of Notre Dame before the Los Angeles Sparks drafted her in 2019 as the 19th overall pick in the second round. She also spent two seasons with the Dallas Wings. Known for her three-point shooting ability, Mabrey consistently ranks among the top three-point shooters in the league.
Since 2021, McBride has been a guard for the Minnesota Lynx. After she, too, completed her college career at the University of Notre Dame, the San Antonio Spurs (now the Las Vegas Aces) selected her as the third overall pick in the first round of the 2014 WNBA Draft. While playing with the Las Vegas Aces, she achieved a career high of 18.2 points per game during the 2018 season.
The WNBA vs. NBA Salary Gap
The pay disparity between the WNBA and the NBA is significant, although WNBA players continue to push for more equitable treatment. In 2022, the average base salary for an NBA player was $5.4 million, the average WNBA salary was just $120,600.
Some argue those figures reflect the leagues' respective seasons — 82 games in the NBA and 36 games in the WNBA — while others point out that the NBA brings in significantly more dollars than the WNBA does through ticket sales, merchandise and broadcasting rights. As a result, they argue, the NBA can afford to pay its players much higher salaries.
Also worth considering is the fact that the NBA has been around since 1946 and had decades to grow its fan base and develop different revenue streams. The WNBA, on the other hand, has only existed since 1996 and faced challenges in achieving the same level of popularity and financial success.
The gender pay gap is not unique to basketball and reflects broader gender pay gaps in professional sports and other industries. As in other fields, achieving pay equity in sports will require ongoing efforts to address systemic issues related to gender, revenue and representation.
This article was created in conjunction with AI technology, then was fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.
Original article: Who Is the Highest Paid WNBA Player in 2024?
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